Putnam County officials ask for trailer removal



For the Daily Mail

WINFIELD — The owner of a dilapidated trailer near Hurricane that once housed as many as 50 dogs has been given 30 days’ notice to come up with a plan to remove or replace the structure.

Photos of the structure show a trailer with all the exterior cladding ripped off, exposing rotting frame boards.

“This trailer had 50-some dogs in it at one time,” Hurricane City Manager Ben Newhouse said. “If some resident or kid was near the trailers, it could be a liability.”

The mobile home does not meet current zoning standards for the area, which is across from Kelly’s Cove near the intersection of W.Va. 34 and U.S. 60.

But that trailer and another, which is in better condition, were on the site before zoning ordinances went into effect, so they were grandfathered in.

However, grandfathering means if the structure is removed or significantly damaged, it has to be replaced with something that does meet zoning requirements.

The owner has indicated that he doesn’t want to remove the trailer because he won’t be able to put another one in its place. Officials say it’s past the point of being repaired and has to go anyway.

Sandy Mellert of the county planning office sent the landowners a letter last week.

“She’s starting enforcement action on her end,” County Manager Brian Donat told the commission. “Because it doesn’t comply and it must be removed based on the zoning ordinance.”

Two other county agencies are also working on the problem.

“The health department has been out and reviewed it and they’re going to bring the issue up at the next dilapidated enforcement agency meeting,” Donat said. “Solid Waste is actually looking into offering financial assistance. There are grants out there for removal of trailers and things.”

Mellert’s letter is addressed to Tony Joseph Romeo Jr., Wiliam A. Romeo and Janet Sue Romeo of Wilton Corp. in Charleston. They apparently have the trailers for rental income, though the trailer in question has been abandoned for some time.

Donat said that in cases like this, the best approach is to enforce existing ordinances to the fullest extent possible.

“We’re trying to look at this from every angle we can to get this taken care of,” Donat said.

Newhouse was at Tuesday’s commission meeting on another item of business: asking the county for about $20,000 toward a new bridge at Hurricane City Park.

The current bridge, which leads to a heavily used park and several ballfields, is only one-lane wide.

The replacement will be two lanes, creating better traffic flow and improving safety for drivers and pedestrians.

But the total cost will be at $325,000. The state department of transportation has given Hurricane a grant covering 80 percent of the project, and the city has some money set aside for its share, but it needs more.

Commission President Steve Andes said that residents from all over the county use the park, especially for the ball fields. Andes made adding ball fields a centerpiece of his recent reelection campaign.

Commissioner Andy Skidmore said that when the fiscal year closes out at the end of June and the commissioners have a chance to see what’s left over, they’ll have a better idea if they’re able to contribute to the project.

He anticipated they’d have an answer at their second meeting in July.

In other business, a global engineering firm that is building a facility in Putnam Business Park was on the agenda for the third consecutive meeting and didn’t show up.

FL Schmidth was set to negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement, with the county commission.

The county sent a letter of intent to enter into such an agreement in 2012. The company would pay just 20 percent of the taxes it would otherwise owe in exchange for creating jobs.

At the time the company was Ludowici and was relocating from Chapmanville. It manufactured equipment for coal mining operations. Since then it was bought out by FL Schmidth.

Skidmore, who sits on the board of the Putnam County Economic Development Authority, said that the new parent company is larger and slower at responding to local issues.

If the company doesn’t enter into a PILOT agreement by July 1, it will owe Putnam County a full year of property taxes on its industrial property in Frazier’s bottom.

Finally, the commission moved to renew a five-year franchise agreement with Suddenlink to provide cable service to parts of the county. The county collects a 5 percent fee from the utility and can have up to three public access channels. It currently uses only one.

The Putnam County Commission meets at 9 a.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at the county courthouse in Winfield. All meetings are open to the public.

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